NBC on Sunday confirmed that its experiment in running a five nights per week talk show in primetime will end next month. The final episode of “The Jay Leno Show” will be Thursday, February 11th, before NBC begins its coverage of the Winter Olympics on February 12th.
Still to be determined is what the NBC lineup will look like after the Olympics. Leno has apparently agreed to go back to his old start time of 11:35 pm ET/PT, following late local news. If NBC programmers get their wishes, the new late night Leno show will be a half hour, followed by Conan O’Brien at five minutes past midnight. However, as noted by RBR-TVBR, contracts come into play and O’Brien apparently has the right to walk rather than accept the rescheduling. NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin told critics in Los Angeles Sunday that talks with O’Brien were ongoing. The word on the street is that he’d already been talking to Fox about jumping there to do a late night show.
The rest of the NBC late night lineup would have Jimmy Fallon following O’Brien at 1:05 am. That would leave Carson Daly without his current slot at 1:35 am, but Gaspin insisted that Daly would stay with NBC in some capacity. Of course, if O’Brien jumps ship, it would likely be a Leno-Fallon-Daly lineup.
Gaspin insisted that running Leno five nights a week in primetime was not a bad decision for the network, but that the programming change had had a greater impact on late news ratings for the affiliates than had been expected. Of course, no local stations were more affected than the NBC O&Os, which are generally in the nation’s largest markets.
The decision to go back to series programming 10-11 pm Monday-Friday was welcomed by affiliates.
“We are big fans of Jay Leno, just not in the 10 pm time period. Scripted entertainment seems to be the best lead-in to our late news broadcasts and we are hopeful for a return to that genre in the time period with a competitive product from the network. We would also like to be number one at 11:30 pm once again and would welcome a reinstatement of Jay Leno in that time period,” Nexstar CEO Perry Sook told RBR-TVBR by email after the decision was announced Sunday. Nexstar owns or operates 12 NBC affiliates.
“I think it is a smart move to admit your mistake early and move to correct it,” Bob Prather, President of Gray Television, told RBR-TVBR. Gray owns 10 NBC affiliates and also has one NBC affiliate in the portfolio of stations it manages for Young Broadcasting.
RBR-TVBR observation: Looking back, you have to wonder why the big shots at NBC didn’t see this train wreck coming when it was obvious to everyone else right from the get-go. Affiliates were skeptical and one of the largest, in Boston, threatened to air other programming at 10 pm until threatened with the loss of its NBC affiliation. So, the affiliates knew this was going to be a disaster for them.
Even though it saved the network money, it should have been obvious to the folks making the decisions at NBC Universal that their own NBC Local Media stations were going to pay the heaviest price in lost revenues from having a weak lead-in to late local news every weekday. As much as we sometimes assail the bean-counters at various companies, it seems in this case that the bean-counters at the network forgot to contact the bean-counters at the O&O side. Ultimately, it’s all one pile of beans and NBCU is now short some beans.